The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning Volume 1: A-K

by Jerome Clark
Omnigraphics, Inc., Detroit, 1998, pp. v-568, hardcover, contact publisher for price.

The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning Volume 2: L-Z

by Jerome Clark
Omnigraphics, Inc., Detroit, 1998, pp. 569-1178, hardcover, contact publisher for price.

Reviewed by Douglas Chapman

Clark has revised and updated the three volumes he brought out between 1990 and 1996: UFOs in the 1980s; The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959; and High Strangeness: UFOs from 1960 through 1979.

Now in two commodious volumes, the result is a treasure for anyone interested in UFOs. The only people unlikely to be pleased by it are dogmatics of any stripe, for multiple points of view are represented.

Sources are included for each entry, and a sizable Bibliography and Index cap the second volume. A lifetime of research can be launched off Clark’s extensive efforts. (He wrote nearly all of this encyclopedia.)

Entries include such varied subjects as Aliens in Our Midst, Allende Letters, Cloud Cigars, the Dr. X Case, the Drury Case, the Fatima Miracle, Klarer Contact Claims, the Mutual UFO Network, the Andreasson Abduction Case, the Ocala Radar/Visual Case, Project Blue Book, Space Animals, the Unarius Academy of Science, Saturnian sexual prowess, and more.

UFOs throughout history are well delineated, including the “airships” that made many countries uncomfortable about purported technological achievements of their enemies.

Post-1947 sightings and studies are also nicely chronicled, including how the former adherent of the skeptical party line, J. Allen Hynek, eventually criticized Project Blue Book’s efforts, and urged a better examination than the Condon report, which had been no such thing. The Condon Report had an introduction which stated that no additional investigation on UFOs was justified, despite the fact that a third of its cases were unsolved.

Clark’s approach here is intelligent. He writes: “Except in those instances where good reason exists to doubt an informant’s sincerity, The UFO Encyclopedia operates on the assumption that intellectual agnosticism, rather than its alternatives (occultism on one hand, reductionism on the other), is the wisest course.” Thus, abductee Travis Walton and his logging associates are taken to be likely sincere in Clark’s estimation.

From the early “contactees” to the later claimed victims like Whitley Strieber, the abduction phenomenon gets a good going-over, with the help of guest writer Thomas E. Bullard. Those who take the subject seriously, like John E. Mack, to those who consider it a combination of unreliable ingredients, like Philip J. Klass, are profiled. Most will enjoy the general even-handedness displayed by the author(s).

Clark himself still finds mystery in the subject of UFO abductions. Yet the influence of 1950s science fiction movies, such as Invaders from Mars, Earth Versus the Flying Saucers, and Village of the Damned, etc., is demonstrated by him, including the themes of implanted devices, dying planets, breeding programs, etc.

Clark points out an interesting detail in the most famous case of all, that of Betty and Barney Hill, in that Dr. Benjamin Simon, their psychiatrist, had an “antipathy to the UFO subject.” Clark differs with Peter Brookesmith—who felt him unbiased, and thus to be taken especially seriously when concluding that their account was based on their dreams and not reality.

The other most famous abduction case, according to this encyclopedia, is that which occurred on October 11, 1973 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker were fishing when they encountered a UFO, and three five-foot-tall grayish, wrinkled things came out and kidnapped the humans for an apparent twenty minutes and then returned them to their fishing ground—throwing them back, as it were. Other individuals in town saw the UFO.

Later, Sheriff Fred Diamond had breath analysis done, and the two obviously distressed claimed abductees received two hours of interrogation, secretly audiotaped.

Hickson later came to the conclusion that the things which had abducted them were robots. Philip Klass later tried debunking Hickson by character attack, but did not deal with the tape, which had intrigued others.

The abductee’s “predecessors,” the contactees, also come in for much critique in Clark’s book. How George Adamski influenced the contactee movement, even though “his tales of interplanetary adventure are not true in any sense” is the subject of a lengthy entry with the typical fine list of sources. George Van Tassel, who first channeled “Ashtar, commandant quadra sector, patrol section Schare, all projections, all waves” is the subject of much commentary, as are his successors in the Ashtar Command, such as Trevor James Constable. (Some Christian fundamentalists disapprove of all this, linking Ashtar to the definitely non-Christian Ashtoreth and Ishtar.) Adamski and Van Tassel both helped originate southern California’s contactee culture, which figures strongly in the two volumes.

Things have gotten weirder since the days of the initial contactees. The early history of the couple, Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, the former of whom later brought upon the Heaven’s Gate suicide tragedy, is here recorded, including their visit during the 1970s to the headquarters of the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, in which the director Hayden Hewes was half-convinced they were extraterrestrials. Nettles died of cancer in 1985, so was not involved in the group’s later incarnation as Heaven’s Gate.

There is more than one scary side to the subject of UFOs.

The entry on the “Dark Side” of Ufology sketches the impact of William L. Moore’s confession of having given information on people in the field to disinformation types in the government.

If one isn’t paranoid in this field, one is crazy.

Alleged government efforts have made many ufologists nervous, even scared. Jacques Vallee’s creation of the psychosocial hypothesis, and the further esotericizing of his ideas shows how his influence has made the field more occult than before. Only when his journals were published, was it clear why he came to believe in a human mastery of psychotronic power—by a secret group—which could be used to influence humanity. It seems that a January 9, 1953 letter by someone in the government who Vallee calls “Pentacle” suggested that a UFO wave could be simulated, and Vallee wondered if it had indeed been implemented.

For all its participants, ufology can be an intellectual minefield, and Clark is an excellent guide through paths safe or otherwise. Readers are not urged to be dogmatic “believers.”

Along the way, he includes many helpful details.

Useful lists of Abbreviations and Acronyms; and UFO-Related Web Sites help one’s study of the subject. An excellent resource for serious researchers are the many tables included, such as “Sequence of episodes of the abduction story,” and “Description of beings’ appearance and behavior,” with the percentages of particular happenings.

Whatever one’s theories, there is much to fascinate here. Clark’s work can only be called invaluable, to both newbies and those who have long followed the field.

Clark’s summary of it all is included in the initial overview: “We would all be better off if, when the occasion called for it, we pretended to no false authority but instead boldly uttered three one-syllable words seldom heard in the five decades of the UFO controversy: We don’t know.”

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